[conspire] terms of service, illustrated

Luke S. Crawford lsc at prgmr.com
Wed Aug 31 19:25:44 PDT 2011

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 02:23:48PM -0700, Rick Moen wrote:
> That's amusing, but it's not even _primarily_ a matter of 'terms of
> service', though those alleged contracts do sometime alert one to
> particular vendor misbehaviour that is likely:  For example, if Kindle 
> users had attentively read Amazon.com's terms of service, the 2009
> scandal where they retroactively erased not only all customer-purchased
> copies of two Orwell e-books but also independent customer notes and
> annotations those books, they wouldn't have been taken by surprise.

Speaking as someone who has gone over an AUP with a lawyer (on
the provider side, of course)  any lawyer is going to advise
you to grab as many rights as you can.  You don't want to use them,
but you can if you have to.  (really, this is why I still don't have
anything good up.)   

But speaking as a person who does business, nobody expects the business 
to actually exercise those rights under normal circumstances.   Yeah,
if I do business with you, and I depend on you, you can almost always
find some way to screw me without breaking our contract or going
outside the law.   But that doesn't mean I won't be surprised and angry.

This is why people were so pissed at amazon.  "Hey, I trusted you, and
you took advantage of that trust."  Yes, it's legal, but it's not fair,
and the customer was reasonable to be angry, I think.  

Heck even the most basic of common law 'you have the right to 
refuse to do business with'  etc... is one of those rights
that if you exercise it in an arbitrary manner, you will 
cause great offense, and likely punished in the court of public

I mean, if you sign up for month to month service from me, and
six months in, I decide I don't like your beard or something,
(assuming it's a non-religious non-protected class beard.) 
and I cut you off at your next renewal period, well, this is okay under
law and our contract;  it's even okay under the implied common law 

But the court of public opinion would have my head on a stick,
and rightly so.  When you sign up on a month to month contract, you 
expect that if you keep paying your bill and don't do anything too
eregrious to cause trouble, you can depend on your provider
continuing to provide the service.   If I disconnect you for any
reason other than egregiously bad behavior on your part, public 
opinion will crucify me, and rightly so.   


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